Newly appointed Buckaneer’s captain Lee Orpen battles for a puck along the wall against two Saanich Braves. Photo by Ben Chessor

Ben Chessor
The Navigator

A sweep of a home-and-home weekend series with the Saanich Braves gave the Nanaimo Buccaneers two much needed victories in their race for second place in the Vancouver Island Hockey League’s North division.

The first game between Nanaimo and Saanich was Thursday, January 30, at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. Goals from David Osborne and Daniel Foglietta gave Nanaimo a 2-0 lead after the first period. The Buccaneers stretched the lead to 3-0 on a goal by Will McNamara. However, with a minute left before the end of the period, Evan Horvath got Saanich on the board heading into the third period. The Braves cut the lead to 3-2 on a powerplay goal by Liam Sproule just 2:45 into the third. Just under four minutes later, Horvath scored his second goal of the night to bring Saanich all the way back to tie the game 3-3. Nanaimo took the lead back for good at 11:22 of the third period with his second goal of the game. The Buccaneers went on to win by a final score of 4-3.

The two teams were back in action the next night. This time ,the game was played at George Pearkes Arena in Saanich. The Braves opened the scoring on a powerplay goal by Jordan Groenheyde at 8:58 to take a 1-0 lead, but newly appointed Nanaimo captain Lee Orpen tied the game 29 seconds later. Then a powerplay goal by Nick White at 18:17 gave the Buccaneers a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. In the second period, Nanaimo came out firing and completely took the game over. The Buccaneers scored five times in a span of 9:30, including two more goals by Orpen to take a 7-1 lead after two periods. The two teams traded goals in the third period, and the Buccaneers walked away with an 8-2 victory.

The two victories over the weekend allowed the Buccaneers to keep pace in the race for second place and home ice heading into the first round of the VIJHL playoffs. Nanaimo has been struggling of late, winning just three of their last 11 games heading into their weekend series with Saanich. The Buccaneers sit four points behind the second place Comox Valley Glacier Kings. Comox has one game in hand over Nanaimo.

The Buccaneers only have four games left to play before the regular season ends on February 14. Three of those remaining four games are against Comox Valley. The Buccaneers will likely have all four of their remaining games to pass the Glacier Kings for second place in the North division.

It is likely that Nanaimo and Comox Valley will also meet in the first round of the VIJHL playoffs this year, as the second and third place teams in each division play each other in the first round. If the series goes seven games, Nanaimo will play ten games in a row against Comox Valley.

Nanaimo’s last two home games of the regular season are on Thursday, February 6, against Pennisula and Thursday February 13 against Comox Valley. Tickets are only $8 for students.